BANJUL: Female civil servants in the west African country of Gambia, recently declared “an Islamic state” by its president, have been ordered to cover their hair at work, a leaked government memo showed.
According to a copy of the memorandum obtained by AFP, “all female staff within the government ministries, departments and agencies are no longer allowed to expose their hair during official working hours effective December 31, 2015.
“Female staff are urged to use head tie and neatly wrap their hair.” A senior official in the education ministry confirmed that the note had been circulated among government departments.
The new rule comes hot on the heels of President Yahya Jammeh’s categorisation of the small predominantly Muslim country in mid-December as “an Islamic state”.
“Gambia’s destiny is in the hands of the Almighty Allah. We will be an Islamic state that will respect the rights of the citizens,” he said. At the time he warned against trying to impose a dress code on women.
“I have not appointed anyone as an Islamic policeman. The way women dress is not your business,” he said.
An impoverished former British colony famed for its white-sand beaches, the Gambia has a population of nearly two million, 90 per cent of whom are Muslim.
Of the remainder, eight per cent are Christian and two percent are defined as having indigenous beliefs.
Jammeh, 50, a military officer and former wrestler has ruled the country with an iron fist since he seized power in a coup in 1994.